by Michael Butler
Whether you're a fan of the brand or not, Audi builds some of the most alluring performance cars around. From the RS3 to the RS6 Avant, there's something for everyone, but it's the Audi R8 Coupe that represents the pinnacle of Audi Sport development.
The R8 has been around since 2006 and is currently in its second generation. But in all iterations, it became synonymous with daily drivability, striking a balance between performance, comfort, and luxury. Under the hood breathes a 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V10 with outputs ranging from 562 horsepower in rear-wheel-drive Performance guise to 602 hp in either the new RWD GT or the AWD quattro model. That V10 doesn't come from humble origins either but is shared with the Lamborghini Huracan, as is the platform on which the R8 is based. The sports car-cum-supercar segment is filled with stiff competition, though, comprising everything from the Porsche 911 Turbo to the Mercedes-AMG GT, and even the Ferrari F8 Tributo and McLaren 720S. An archaic dinosaur without turbocharging shouldn't be able to live in such company. And yet, the R8 is still as intoxicating now as it was back in 2006. Maybe even more so.
The 2023 model year will be the last chance customers in the USA can sample this fine machine. Audi will send the R8 off with a final GT model, which is a RWD-only version of the supercar with a 602-hp engine and a revised seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The GT also gets a red and black upholstery and carbon fiber interior trim. A numbered plaque lets you know that there are only a few of these around - 333 units globally.
The cheapest model of the R8 is the base version, which starts at a cost of just under $160,000 before you pay the $1,495 destination charge. The V10 performance quattro breaches the double-ton at around $210,000 before options, but the MSRP of the R8 GT is the steepest, as this limited edition commands a price of $249,900 before options, delivery, gas guzzler tax, and paint fees.
See trim levels and configurations:
The R8 was born for a singular purpose, and that's to drive fast. The 2023 Audi R8 is undeniably fast in a straight line, but it's what it does in the bends that impress us most. This mid-engine supercar comes with adaptive suspension as standard, and when driving through the city or bombing down the highway, it is remarkable how well it handles bumps and rough road surfaces. This setup makes the Audi a totally viable option as a daily driver (if you can stomach the fuel bills). In the bends, the R8 remains flat as a wood plank and turns into sharp corners with refreshing eagerness. We have to admit that the R8 isn't the sharpest when it comes to steering input, but it's an easy car to drive fast, and couple that with a roaring V10, and you have one seriously engaging driving experience on your hands.
Many of the criticisms leveled against the standard models are dealt with in the R8 GT, which feels planted, deals heavily in feedback and emotion, and can even engage a seven-stage stability control system to let you maximize your drift with 602 hp sent solely to the rear axle.
There's a reason why the R8 has been around for so long: it's because it's so good. Few other supercars are as easy to live with and easy to drive fast. Sure, competitors of the Audi R8 such as the 911 Turbo are better driver's cars, and there are a few Italian examples that look more visually appealing and have more power, but few are as easy to live with, comfortable, and refined. Let's not forget that this car is also stupidly fast. With a 0-60 time in the low three-second range, and a top speed of over 200 mph, this car is no joke, and that masterful V10 engine makes this car come alive and deliver a driving experience you'll only find in a few other places. The 2023 R8 strikes a fine balance between exotic appeal and practicality and is one of the finer choices for those who want to step into the world of supercars. As it's one of the last times we'll ever get to review the Audi R8, this is also goodbye to the V10 and goodbye to an icon of its era.
This choice will depend on the kind of driver you and what kind of features you want from your car. If you seek ultimate performance, then the quattro model is certainly the one to have. With AWD and over 600 horses on tap, this is the quickest R8 on the street, but for those who are happy with a top speed of 204 mph, the regular R8 RWD is the one we recommend. Not only can this one be even more fun when you get it sideways, but it also comes with adaptive dampers as standard - something that you can't have on the quattro model. The spanner in the works is the R8 GT. As the last R8 with a V10 and the most powerful RWD Audi ever, it's a very special car. But it costs a lot and is only available in limited numbers of 333 globally and only 150 in America. It's our pick if you can get one.
The most popular competitors of 2023 Audi R8 Coupe: